Each fall, high schools and universities alike host a homecoming week, traditionally a time when alumni come back to get involved at their alma mater. At the University of Utah, that means a week of events: a golf tournament, a day of service, the Homecoming 5K and the Homecoming football game.
However, Brynn Whitchurch, the associate director of student and volunteer engagement, oversees both the MUSS board and Student Alumni Board and has worked at the U for 14 years and has never seen a homecoming week quite like this one.
“Homecoming week is a long-standing tradition at the University of Utah that typically includes activities for both students and alumni,” Whitchurch said. “It’s a chance to celebrate our amazing university and its rich history.”
With most students participating in distanced learning through zoom or online classes and a suspension of in-person activities because of COVID-19, the traditional homecoming events have had to be altered more than a little bit.
“Homecoming week typically culminates in the homecoming football game, but unfortunately, that is not possible this year,” Whitchurch said.
“And of course, all the traditional activities have needed to be altered to fit into our virtual world. It’s unfortunate we cannot celebrate the week together, but there are still many ways to show your school spirit during the week.”
The Alumni Association which includes both the MUSS and Student Alumni Board is usually involved but they’ve had to get creative in their planning and getting students involved virtually. Olivia Randall, the president of the Student Alumni Board, said there are still many ways for students to be a part of this fun week.
“Although it’s virtual this year, and there is no homecoming football game or large gathering to celebrate, there are still a lot of incredible opportunities for students and alumni to come together,” Randall said. “Anyone can sign up for the Virtual U5K and run from wherever you might be with friends and family — some members of our board ran together this weekend and it was so fun … Everything has adapted to the unique times we are living in which in many ways makes this homecoming more memorable than usual.”
The Student Alumni Board is putting on a Homecoming Scavenger Hunt that is a questival-style event where students have the opportunity to compete for large prizes by completing a series of activities, uploading photos and then earning points for those activities. Students can participate by downloading the Utah Alumni app, logging in with their student ID and then finding challenges they can complete there.
“Students can participate from wherever they might be currently situated, with friends, or by themselves,” Randall shared. “We are encouraging students to get creative as they participate in the challenges and to show their Utah spirit.”
Whitchurch said ASUU is also hosting activities throughout the week and registration for the 5K is open until October 17th. More details on different ways to get involved in homecoming week are available on their Instagrams.